Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Wednesday, June 24, as the day unfolded. It is no longer being updated. Click here to see all the most recent news about the pandemic, and click here to find additional resources.
As cases surge across Washington state — especially in Yakima County, which now has nearly as many COVID-19 cases as the state of Oregon — Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday afternoon announced a statewide requirement for almost everyone to wear masks in public. The new order will go into effect Friday.
Meanwhile, the European Union announced Tuesday that it may bar Americans from entering because the United States has failed to control the virus.
Throughout Wednesday, on this page, we’ll post updates from Seattle Times journalists and others on the pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Tuesday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
Coronavirus deaths lag behind surging infections but may catch up soon
With novel coronavirus infections setting a single-day national record Wednesday, health experts are taking little solace from one of the few bright spots in the current resurgence: deaths are not rising in lockstep with caseloads.
But that may be just a matter of time.
“Deaths always lag considerably behind cases,” Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease specialist, told Congress at a hearing Tuesday. In the weeks to come, he and others said, the death toll is likely to rise commensurately.
Which means Arizona, Texas and Florida, states that reopened early and now are experiencing runaway infection rates, are likely to be burying more dead in July.
Second Washington inmate dies of COVID-19
A second Washington inmate has died from COVID-19, according to a Wednesday statement from the state Department of Corrections.
William Bryant, 72, died Monday after he was transported from the long-term minimum custody unit at the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell, Franklin County, for outside medical treatment, the statement said. He spent about two weeks at the medical facility before he died.
"The Department of Corrections is sad to announce its second COVID-19 related death,” Corrections Secretary Stephen Sinclair said in the statement. “We’ve continued to escalate our response at Coyote Ridge to help prevent the spread of this virus and protect the staff as well as the remaining individuals housed there.”
Bryant was serving a 68-month sentence for first-degree child molestation out of Grays Harbor County, the statement said. His earliest release date was April 14, 2022.
Victor Bueno, the first Washington prisoner to die of COVID-19, died last week. Bueno, 63, was also held at Coyote Ridge.
As of Wednesday, the corrections center had 43 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among staff and 110 confirmed cases among its incarcerated population, the statement said.
Virus cases surge among the young
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Coronavirus cases are climbing rapidly among young adults in a number of states where bars, stores and restaurants have reopened — a disturbing generational shift that not only puts them in greater peril than many realize but poses an even bigger danger to older people who cross their paths.
In Oxford, Mississippi, summer fraternity parties sparked outbreaks. In Oklahoma City, church activities, fitness classes, weddings and funerals seeded infections among people in their 20s, 30s and 40s. In Iowa college towns, surges followed the reopening of bars. A cluster of hangouts near Louisiana State University led to at least 100 customers and employees testing positive. In East Lansing, Michigan, an outbreak tied to a brew pub spread to 34 people ages 18 to 23.
There and in states like Texas, Arizona and Florida (where people ages 15 to 34 now make up 31% of all cases, up from 25% in early June), young people have started going out again, many without masks, in what health experts see as irresponsible behavior.
Federal government sent coronavirus relief checks to US prisoners, IRS wants the money back
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of dollars in coronavirus relief payments have been sent to people behind bars across the United States, and now the IRS is asking state officials to help claw back the cash that the federal tax agency says was mistakenly sent.
The legislation authorizing the payments during the pandemic doesn’t specifically exclude jail or prison inmates, and the IRS has refused to say exactly what legal authority it has to retrieve the money. On its website, it points to the unrelated Social Security Act, which bars incarcerated people from receiving some types of old-age and survivor insurance benefit payments.
“I can’t give you the legal basis. All I can tell you is this is the language the Treasury and ourselves have been using,” IRS spokesman Eric Smith said. “It’s just the same list as in the Social Security Act.”
Tax attorney Kelly Erb, who’s written about the issue on her website, says there’s no legal basis for asking for the checks back.
“I think it’s really disingenuous of the IRS,” Erb said Tuesday. “It’s not a rule just because the IRS puts it on the website. In fact, the IRS actually says that stuff on its website isn’t legal authority. So there’s no actual rule — it’s just guidance — and that guidance can change at any time.”
Two UW athletes test positive for the coronavirus, enter ‘COVID-19 care and quarantine protocols’
The University of Washington has tested 119 student-athletes who have returned to campus for voluntary activities since June 15, and two tested positive for COVID-19, a spokesperson confirmed to The Times on Wednesday. He added that “those individuals are now going through our COVID-19 care and quarantine protocols.”
Last week, UW reported that 80 athletes had been tested and there were zero positive tests at that point.
The university declined to specifically name the athletes who tested positive to protect their privacy. According to UW’s phased return schedule, returning football players as well as athletes from men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball were slated to return the week of June 15. Incoming freshman football players and athletes from men’s and women’s tennis and men’s and women’s rowing reportedly joined them this week.
Rob Scheidegger — UW’s associate athletic director for health and wellness, the football team’s head athletic trainer and head of the athletics department’s COVID-19 operations committee — told The Times this month that “having a positive COVID-19 test is definitely a part of our COVID-19 prevention plan."
Inslee outlines what Washington universities, colleges must do to open in person for fall quarter
On Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee outlined a series of steps that the state’s colleges and universities would need to take in order to open in person this fall, including making students and staff self-certify that they had experienced no COVID-19 symptoms since their last visit to campus.
Students and staff who have the virus, or have been exposed to it, would be quarantined. The guidelines also call for school personnel to avoid nonessential travel, and self-quarantine if they undertake any high-risk travel. If the pandemic is still a serious health issue by fall, everyone will need to wear masks in most areas of campus, including in classrooms and outside.
The University of Washington has already reduced seating density in lounges, and will do the same in campus dining facilities and decrease the number of students staying in residence halls, said University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce, who joined Inslee in the afternoon news conference. At the UW, sororities and fraternities are being asked to reduce the number of people living in their halls by 50%, she said.
‘Coming back and biting us’: U.S. sees virus resurgence, recording highest one-day spike in infections since April
HOUSTON — A coronavirus resurgence is wiping out two months of progress in the U.S. and sending infections to dire new levels across the South and West, with administrators and health experts warning Wednesday that politicians and a tired-of-being-cooped-up public are letting a disaster unfold.
The U.S. recorded a one-day total of 34,700 new COVID-19 cases, the highest level since late April, when the number peaked at 36,400, according to the count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
State confirms 483 more diagnoses, nine more deaths; positive test rate remains steady at 6%
State health officials confirmed 483 new COVID-19 infections in Washington on Wednesday, as well as nine additional deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 29,869 cases and 1,293 deaths, meaning about 4.3% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the state Department of Health’s (DOH) data dashboard. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.
So far, 495,498 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted in the state, per DOH. Of those, 6% have come back positive. The rate of positive tests in Washington has hovered around 6% in recent days, even as the total number of infections has been climbing.
The state has confirmed 9,453 diagnoses and 604 deaths in King County, the state's most populous, accounting for almost half of the state's death toll.
Travelers from Washington don't have to quarantine when visiting New York, New Jersey, Connecticut
Washingtonians aren't among the travelers required to quarantine for 14 days when visiting to New York, Connecticut or New Jersey, Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee said Wednesday afternoon.
The three Northeastern states had included Washington on a list, announced earlier Wednesday, of 14 states with high infection rates whose travelers would be subject to quarantine. But Inslee said that was a mistake.
Any state where more than 10% of coronavirus tests are coming back positive will be subject to the traveler quarantine, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday at a news conference with the governors of Connecticut and New Jersey. Washington state's positive test rate is currently 6%.
States over the 10% threshold are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.
Inslee said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon that he'd learned Washington state was "erroneously included" on the list and "we were told that we can expect that to be corrected shortly."
When asked if Washington state is considering a similar quarantine rule for visitors from virus hot spots, Inslee replied that "at the moment, it is not under serious consideration."
New York City Marathon, world's largest, is canceled
The New York City Marathon, the world’s largest marathon, was canceled Wednesday because of the coronavirus pandemic, with organizers and city officials deciding that holding the race on Nov. 1 would be too risky.
New York Road Runners announced the cancellation of the prestigious marathon, set to celebrate its 50th anniversary, after coordinating with the mayor’s office and deciding the race posed too many health and safety concerns for runners, volunteers, spectators and others.
“While the marathon is an iconic and beloved event in our city, I applaud New York Road Runners for putting the health and safety of both spectators and runners first,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “We look forward to hosting the 50th running of the marathon in November of 2021.”
3 things to watch for in tonight’s All In WA coronavirus relief concert
While some local clubs are champing at the bit to fill their rooms with live music (and paying fans), we’re not quite there yet in Washington state, per the governor’s orders. So unless you’re heading out to Orcas Island, where Doe Bay Resort & Retreat plans to host low-key performances for guests in lieu of its annual music festival, the now-ubiquitous livestream is still the best way to get your concert fix. At least for now.
Three months into the shutdown and along comes the granddaddy of ’em all: the All In WA COVID-19 relief concert uniting Washington music royalty — including Pearl Jam, Brandi Carlile and Macklemore — for a worthy cause. Backed by a coalition of nonprofits, business leaders, philanthropists and public officials, the pretaped virtual concert aims to raise $65 million to help communities disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus. The 75-minute special debuts at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 24, on KING 5 and KONG in Western Washington, and online through Amazon Music’s Twitch channel and at allinwa.org. After the initial broadcast, the show will be available on Amazon Prime for 30 days.
In case you needed more incentive to tune in (and kick in a few bucks, if you can) for an evening of performances from home state heroes like Dave Matthews, Sir Mix-A-Lot, The Head and the Heart, Ben Gibbard, Sleater-Kinney, Allen Stone and more, here are three things to watch for during what looks to be Washington’s (virtual) concert event of the summer.
Free youth summer meal program begins July 6
Seattle's free summer meal program, for any child under age 18, begins July 1, the city Human Services department said.
The program, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provides free breakfast, lunch and snacks to children through Aug. 21.
Meal sites are scattered throughout the city. To find one, click here.
"Children and youth need access to healthy, nutritious food year-round to help them learn, play, and grow including the summer when school year resources are not available," said Jason Johnson, interim director of the department.
King County Council OKs installment plan for late property-tax payments
King County taxpayers who are delinquent in their 2020 property taxes will have the option of paying in installments, an effort to ameliorate the economic devastation wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Metropolitan King County Council unanimously approved a measure Tuesday that directs the county treasurer to reach out to delinquent taxpayers and arrange a payment plan.
"The payment agreements should be provided to taxpayers whose household incomes have declined or who have faced financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic," the legislation says.
The county in March extended the deadline for the first half of 2020's property taxes from April 30 to June 1.
Councilmember Reagan Dunn, the legislation's sponsor, said the installment plan is a way for the county to "shoulder a share of the financial burden" that residents are facing.
"This is good policy that offers a little leniency to folks who are stretched thin and not able to pay their bills," Dunn said.
King County Council approves third round of emergency COVID funding
The Metropolitan King County Council unanimously approved $86 million of emergency funding Tuesday to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, the third multimillion-dollar round of funding the council has approved since March.
The newly approved funding includes millions for rental, homelessness and food assistance, $150,000 for face-mask dispensers on Metro buses and $1 million to help provide internet to students lacking access at home and.
"Families, communities, workers and businesses across King County are hurting health wise, emotionally and financially,” said Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, the council's budget chair. “This spending package is aimed at providing relief to their urgent needs and from the economic fallout caused by the pandemic."
Correction: A previous version of this post said the newly-approved funding included $2 million for arts and culture. That funding was approved in May.
'Don't be a sheep,' says Lewis County sheriff about wear-a-mask orders
"Don't be a sheep," Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza told a group of people on Tuesday afternoon in response to Gov. Jay Inslee's order that Washingtonians wear masks in public, according to The Daily Chronicle.
The group had gathered at a billboard in Hamilton that says " THE BILL OF RIGHTS PROTECTS THIS SIGN AND YOUR HOUSE" after rumors of a potential protest at the site that never materialized.
Washington residents among states told to isolate if traveling to N.Y., N.J. and Connecticut
New York, Connecticut and New Jersey will require visitors from states with high infection rates, including Washington, to quarantine for 14 days, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.
“We now have to make sure the rates continue to drop,” Cuomo said. “We also have to make sure the virus doesn’t come on a plane again.”
Cuomo announced what was called a “travel advisory” at a briefing jointly via video feeds with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, both fellow Democrats.
The states’ health departments will provide details of how the rule will work, Murphy said.
The announcement comes as summer travel to the states’ beaches, parks and other attractions — not to mention New York City — would normally swing into high gear.
Visitors from states over a set infection rate will have to quarantine, Cuomo said. As of Wednesday, states over the threshold were Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Utah and Texas.
Rockies star Charlie Blackmon tests positive for coronavirus
All-Star outfielder Charlie Blackmon of the Colorado Rockies has become the first Major League Baseball player known to have tested positive for the coronavirus.
A person familiar with Blackmon’s situation confirmed the test result to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because there was no official announcement.
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred imposed a 60-game season Tuesday night after failed financial negotiations between owners and players. The season that’s been delayed by the pandemic will begin either July 23 or 24.
The Philadelphia Phillies have said seven players have tested positive for the virus without identifying any of them. Several other teams have said they also have players who have tested positive.
Many players around the majors have been working in recent weeks at either their home ballparks or their team’s complexes in Florida or Arizona. MLB closed all spring camp sites last Friday because of virus concerns.
Even through plastic, love heals in Spanish nursing home
Even when it comes wrapped in plastic, a hug can convey tenderness, relief, love and devotion.
The fear that gripped Agustina Cañamero during the 102 days she and her 84-year-old husband spent physically separated during Spain’s coronavirus outbreak dissolved the moment the couple embraced through a screen of plastic film.
Pascual Pérez, her husband, lives at a nursing home in Barcelona, one of the many that locked out visitors to try to shield their residents as the coronavirus killed so many elderly Spaniards.
Cañamero, 81, stayed during the country’s nationwide lockdown at the home she and Pérez used to share. During their 59 years of marriage, the couple had never spent so many days apart.
So when the Ballesol Puig i Fabra nursing home allowed visits to resume with the addition of protective screens, Cañamero was among the first to arrive. The husband and wife kissed for minutes through the thin layer of plastic — and their face masks.
Their tearful reunion was repeated several times throughout the day by others, washing other residents, visitors and even misty-eyed health care workers with waves of healing energy.
Flyers hiding COVID infections show risk of reopening borders
People infected with coronavirus were allowed to board aircraft and travel to Hong Kong in recent days, highlighting the challenge of controlling the pandemic while governments seek the safest ways to reopen borders.
Hong Kong’s health authority said one infected passenger arrived Sunday from Manila on a Cathay Pacific Airways flight, and another was on a Cathay Dragon flight from Kuala Lumpur. Both were diagnosed with COVID-19 before they traveled. It also said 45 passengers on Emirates flights from Dubai over the weekend either had confirmed or probable cases. The airline restarted flights to Hong Kong this month.
The infections underscore the risk of peeling back restrictions when the global pace of infections keeps accelerating. Airlines worldwide, largely propped up by government bailouts, have been lobbying to get their planes back in the air as they face more than $84 billion in losses this year.
The International Air Transport Association, which represents almost 300 airlines, recommends steps such as temperature checks at the airport and wearing face masks to protect passengers and crew from infection.
But the Hong Kong cases show that infected passengers can bypass voluntary requirements, and there’s little airlines can do.
As Texas hits all-time high for new COVID-19 cases, governor tells Texans to stay home
Gov. Greg Abbott sternly warned Texans of the “rampant” spread of coronavirus that took the state to a new high Tuesday of more than 5,000 cases in a single day.
Saying Texans should stay home unless they have a good reason to venture out, Abbott gave local officials more powers to limit public gatherings during the upcoming Fourth of July weekend.
He expanded the ability of mayors and county judges to restrict outdoor gatherings of over 100 people — down from the previous limit of more than 500 people.
Abbott also told the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to enact emergency rules that provide strict health and safety standards and procedures related to COVID-19 for child care centers.
The decrees were based on data showing an increase in COVID-19 transmission stemming from large gatherings and child care centers, the governor’s office said.
“These are just some of the steps Texas will take to contain the rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations,” Abbott said in a news release. “I urge all Texans to do everything in their power to reduce the transmission of the coronavirus by wearing a face mask, washing their hands often, and staying six feet apart from others.”
Quarantine Corner: Things to do while staying home
For “the best snack ever,” try our favorite teen chef’s recipe for scallion pancakes.
Paperback Picks: A national bestseller is barreling out of Bellevue. “Exhalation: Stories” is among our six highly recommended new paperbacks.
Mask up, Washington: New order takes effect Friday
Catch up on the past 24 hours
U.S. coronavirus cases have surged to their highest level in two months, and are now back to where they were at the peak of the outbreak. Dr. Anthony Fauci, calling the situation "very troublesome," warned Americans to take better precautions. In Washington state, officials yesterday confirmed 516 new infections. And in Texas, the governor told residents to stay home as cases hit an all-time high. Track the pandemic's spread here.
Surprised Washington school districts are grappling with education officials' statement that school should resume in-person in the fall. What if the pandemic keeps worsening over the summer? Here's what we know so far about the plans and challenges.
How safe is it to board an airplane? Airlines tout their coronavirus precautions, but worried passengers from Washington state say those aren't always happening. And it's the wild West when it comes to airlines' different approaches (here's a comparison). Among the risks: passengers who hide their COVID-19 infections. This is top of mind as the first U.S. airline resumes flights to China tomorrow, starting with a Seattle route.
European countries may block American travelers from entering when they reopen their borders to other nations next month. That's because the U.S. has failed to control the virus, according to the European Union's draft plans.
Bookworms, rejoice: King County Library System has resumed book returns and plans to have curbside pickup next week at some locations.
Play ball! The Mariners will start a summery "spring" training next week at T-Mobile Park, now that MLB has laid out a much faster sprint to the World Series while it tries desperately to wall players off from the coronavirus. Things will look different for the M's, of course.
Seattle Aquarium and Woodland Park Zoo reopen next week. New requirements mean you'll need to plan ahead.
Western Washington homebuyers are undaunted by the pandemic, judging by our Coronavirus Economy daily chart. But it's a different story for sellers.
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